Timber veneer is real timber. While some people may perceive the material as fake, veneer is as real as timber – just a very thin slice of a log. This thin slice of timber is applied to a substrate giving the look of solid wood without the cost.

Making timber into veneer is the most efficient use of a log, with one cubic metre of timber producing approximately 1,000 square metres of veneer.

Timber veneer is not the only product in the marketplace that can be used as an overlay on a substrate, but it is the most natural. Laminate is a synthetic alternative made from paper and plastic resins. Laminate is produced by soaking two layers of paper – with one typically decorated – in different resins to make them hard and brittle before they are hard-pressed together to form a laminate sheet. Given its artificial nature, laminate can be manufactured in a vast array of decorative colours and patterns. Ironically, people often choose laminates that look like timber.

Most people are used to seeing laminate applied in the context of benchtops; however, it can be used for vertical applications as well such as kitchen cabinetry and furniture. Laminate flooring has also become increasingly popular. Economy is one of the biggest drawcards of laminate because it is made from paper and plastic, lowering its production costs.

From an environmental perspective, timber veneer is the better, greener choice. At Matilda Veneer, our timber is sourced from sustainably managed forests, which means we are using a renewable resource. Laminates, on the other hand, are manufactured using resin (i.e. plastic) and like most things made from such materials, are not necessarily straightforward to recycle or dispose of properly.

Laminate’s primary advantage over veneer is also its biggest limitation. In some instances, designers, architects and end-users are drawn to the consistency of laminate, mainly in fear of the natural variation that occurs more often when using a natural material, such as timber veneer. However, when laminates are used, the final product tends to be too uniform, appearing manmade and lacking character and warmth. Timber veneer will ensure your finished project can never be exactly repeated, enabling your designs to be authentic, bespoke and forever original.

If consistency is an important factor, choose an engineered wood product instead of laminate. For instance, Matilda Veneer’s Truewood range of engineered veneer is wood that has been subjected to manufacturing processes but is essentially real wood taken in strand, particle or fibre form and mixed with adhesives to create a composite wood material. So the end product still contains real wood but with other materials ‘mixed in’. Engineered wood offers better consistency in terms of colour and grains. The colour and texture of a precious natural timber can also be better replicated by an engineered veneer than a laminate.

Choosing an overlay for a substrate is a personal decision; however, timber veneer made from either natural or engineered wood is the way to go. Timber’s natural beauty might be replicated but it cannot be equalled. Laminate might offer a dazzling array of choices, but it generally delivers an aesthetic that is decidedly fake owing to its synthetic roots. Timber veneer is real timber that injects warmth and class in any context it is used.